Zealous internet censors are working to delete and erase images and videos of protests over mortgage payments as Chinese developers face a widening property crisis.
Angry homebuyers have resorted to physical protests as well as a threatened boycott of mortgages due to hundreds of unfinished housing projects.
While regulators seek to reassure residents that their issues will be resolved, censors have stepped up their removal of social media messages, including videos of demonstrations against Chinese developers and lenders.
The protests have erupted at a sensitive time for Beijing as Chinese leader Xi Jinping is expected to secure a third leadership term at the 20th Communist Party Congress later this year.
Social stability is crucial ahead of the meeting and in a bid to appease protesters and contain the crisis, regulators and local governments have stepped up efforts to reassure critics that projects will be completed.
Regulators have encouraged banks to extend loans to Chinese developers for projects, and districts – including in Henan province, where protests began, and the city of Chongqing – have set up task forces.
Testing Social Media Companies
But mounting turmoil over uncompleted developments is testing Chinese social media companies, which are subject to strict laws requiring them to censor content that “undermines social stability” or is critical of the central government.
One video showing homebuyers declaring a boycott on mortgage payments was blocked on Douyin, the Chinese version of TikTok, according to saved images shown to Reuters by a protester.
The social media platform said “the content didn’t pass scrutiny”.
A protester in the city of Zhengzhou in Henan province said a video about the mortgage boycott that he uploaded via Douyin was among the top trending items at one point.
But he added that such videos could no longer be uploaded or found on the platform.
A mortgage protester in Nanchang, capital of Jiangxi province, said his videos of mortgage protests on Douyin were also censored.
- Reuters, with additional editing by George Russell